According to multiple reports out of Ohio, the ResponsibleOhio marijuana legalization initiative is going to make the ballot in 2015. ResponsibleOhio fell short of the required signatures by the original deadline, but Ohio law permits a 10 extension for one last push. Responsible Ohio needed 29,509 valid signatures in order to make the ballot, and turned in 95,572 at the end of ten day period. In most cases it would have just been assumed that the signature amount would have been enough, but due to a record low signature validation rate for marijuana legalization signature gathering efforts, no one was certain. The campaign needed a roughly 31% validation rate, and appears to have made that goal. Per WBNS-10TV:
The legalization of marijuana will be on the November ballot, according to preliminary reports of valid signatures sent by Ohio's county board of election offices.
With 48 counties out of 88 reporting their preliminary totals, a 10TV survey reveals ResponsibleOhio will exceed the number of required signatures.
The initiative will not be officially on the ballot until Ohio's Secretary of State says so, which is expected by the end of the week. If that proves to be the case, Ohio will get a chance to be the fifth state (and D.C.) to legalize recreational marijuana. As with every other marijuana legalization initiative that has ever made the ballot (assuming it does, which I think is safe to say at this point), ResponsibleOhio's initiative is not without it's controversy. I'm sure most readers know by now about the 'ten for profit entities only' provision of the initiative, which obviously stinks. But is that enough to allow people to be arrested for two more years until maybe, hopefully another initiative gets polling, language, and funding in place?
I have a lot of questions right now about Ohio. Will any national reform organizations step up and support the campaign? Does the campaign care enough to court national reform organizations? Should organizations and prominent activists even support the campaign? Should they organize their own effort for 2016? If that's the plan, where has everyone been for so long because after all, no other marijuana legalization effort got on the ballot, so why would it in two short years? Is ResponsibleOhio the best model that Ohio voters will approve, for better or worse? If not, what does the model look like? I could go on and on. I guess we will just have to wait and see how it plays out.
I'd love to hear from Ohio voters for and against the initiative. I live in Oregon, a state that I feel has the best legalization law in the country. I love the freedom that Oregon's legalization law brings but with that being said, I feel bad for weighing in too much on the Ohio initiative simply because I don't live there. I'm not an Ohio voter. I don't know what the political climate is in Ohio. I do know the level of support that Ohio has received in the past from big cannabis reform funders and organizations, and it hasn't been exactly a fantastic track record, which is obviously unacceptable. Will ResponsibleOhio win in November? Who knows at this point. I'd like to see some more recent polling, which hopefully is coming out soon.
One thing that I will say right now is that I hope that if this 2015 initiative fails, that everyone puts their money where their mouth is for the next effort. And if people don't have money, they better step up in some other way to help the citizens of Ohio. I believe that an initiative can definitely pass in Ohio, and Ohio cannabis consumers deserve to be free from cannabis prohibition. If people want to criticize ResponsibleOhio's model, that's fine. If people want to vote for ResponsibleOhio's model, that's fine. But what is not fine is if people try to tear each other apart, and then abandon the effort and leave Ohio cannabis consumers behind. If this is the best Ohio can get, so be it, and if it's not, then even if ResponsibleOhio wins, organizations and activists need to step up and improve on the law. If people think that they can do better, do it. Don't talk about 'well if I had the money from the investors, I'd blah blah blah.' Those investors are not investing in your initiative. They obviously invested in this initiative because they want to make money. Don't worry about what they are doing so much as worrying about what you're doing.
If you don't like the initiative, campaign against it, but in a way that allows you to keep friends after the election is over. I hate seeing long time relationships getting ruined because of politics, cannabis or otherwise. We live in a free country where you can think what you want, and vote how you want. That's a democracy, and we live with the results for better or worse. If people want to vote for it and it becomes law, then that's the reality of the situation. Believe me, I was very, very upset after the 2012 election when Oregon didn't legalize and missed the opportunity to be one of the first states to do so, like it has in other areas of reform. But instead of pout and try to tear others down around me, I got active. I started working towards the 2014 election with other activists the very next day, and even though we won in Oregon in 2014, there's still a ton of work to be done. When Ohio eventually legalizes, the same will be true for Ohio, whether if it's this initiative or another. Reform is never perfect, and it's never completely done until legalization becomes equalization. Keep fighting and doing whatever you can do when you can do it to support reform!